Return of the double feature
April 9, 2007 —
Grindhouse is not quite like other movies. For one thing, it's not one movie, but two. For another, it's a collaboration between Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, a fact that should make anyone familiar with the two salivate. And it doesn't disappoint. Grindhouse is an experience that continually gets better and better throughout its runtime, and at its conclusion it became only the second film I have attended which received significant applause from the audience. And I clapped along with them.
The title Grindhouse is a reference to a type of theater that showed exploitation films on a regular basis, often shown as double features much like this new project.
This isn't the first time Rodriguez and Tarantino have worked together, as they also both had hands in From Dusk Till Dawn and Sin City. Here they have each made a movie and put them back-to-back, complete with fake movie trailers in between.
Along with intentionally grainy and damaged (and sometimes missing) film, the production of Grindhouse really gives the sense of sitting in an old low-budget theater watching, well, old low-budget exploitation films.
The first film shown is Rodriguez's "Planet Terror," a kind of science fiction/zombie film blend replete with gory and overblown violence, explosions, and ridiculous subplots. The basics of the plot is that some substance has been released into the air which transforms people into disgusting, zombie like creatures, complete with that cannibalistic urge that all people turned into zombies seem to share across the board in movies.
Rodriguez's work in this film, with its vast overuse of fog and awkward camera angles reminded me of movies like 1988's They Live. "Planet Terror" is filled with sensationalized acting and hilariously cheesy music, and also with sickening, yet completely fake-looking blood and gore.
After some extremely well-done trailers (don't get up for a bathroom break between the movies, or you'll miss out), Tarantino's section, "Death Proof," begins.
Kurt Russell stars as Stuntman Mike, a maniacal stuntman (you guessed it) who used his car to kill women in unique ways. "Death Proof" takes a lot longer to get going than "Planet Terror," with less emphasis on bad acting and more on good dialogue. These early scenes, which at first were a turnoff, ended up revealing themselves later in the movie as self-referencing and expertly designed foreshadowing and symbolism.
"Death Proof" has some truly intense edge-of-your-seat material, and also some truly triumphant and funny scenes. While it takes a while to get going, it's all part of the experience, and the slower early scenes make the later adrenaline-rushing ones all the better.
There is a lot to enjoy in Grindhouse. Lulls in the humor and action are rare, and the way the two directors work together creates a sort of self-sustaining mythology and a setting in which I wanted to see the lives of more characters, beyond just those in these movies. It's long, yes, but I assure you, you won't find another movie-going experience like this for a long time.